@ekalu28@gmail.... 13 min read Write a comment #short-stories

How To Create A Hole In People's Heart

A short tragic story of a young woman and the dangerous secret she hides from her loving husband.

He laughed at his joke like it was the funniest ever done by a man in the world. His clenched teeth jumped out of his mouth, showing his discolored gums like a mismatched flip-flop, his gum was red, the red of his father’s dusty Jeep Wrangler, and his teeth yellowed. I thought coldly to myself, the problem must be his toothbrush and not the paste. I asked him for his name.“James, James….” He said. “James Azubuike”. I waved my hand in his face, signaling there was no need for the repetition.

There was this look on James’ face that took me down memory lane. The look of a stray cat on a stranger’s porch. I tried to shake James off my head. Somewhere in Heaven God had told the angels to make all the James while he made the good men. The angels put too much opium in their ears and patched them up inaccurately. God coming out of the laundry room, he walked toward the angel. “How much opium did you put?.” He asked. “This much sir,” Angel said holding up a pitcher. “You should know how to make people by now,” God said, slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand in disappointment. “Now listen, if you add too much opium, you will create a hole in his heart.” “Can I see your luggage please?” I asked James.“Oh why not,” he cracked it open beaming with smiles. Lagos Sunlight danced on the edges of his black suitcase. “Your destination please?” I asked. “Hannesburg,” he said flimsily, they always say things flimsily. Where is the ‘Jo’ in ‘Johannesburg’ for Good Heavens’ sake? He flushed it in the airport bathroom I guess. Is he better than the other passengers who gave me their destinations without cutting them in two, like people’s hearts? Somewhere in my head, this James still looked like that James that broke my heart, in 2009 in Unilag.

Maybe it’s him, and he’s hiding his eyes behind a pair of thick sunglasses.“Please take off your glasses. Step a little closer to the camera. I need to see your face.” If James had cheated on me with a prostitute, like those ones stationed at the back gate of Unilag in Yaba, on the asphalt fork that leads to Bariga Police Station, I’d be fine. The bastard cheated on me that night with my best friend. “Please take out your laptop and put it down on the scanner.” “OK,” he said. I watched him closely, the joys of being an immigration officer. You’re standing at the edge of your beloved country watching people leave; some for good, others go overseas to become worse. 

There is a particular group; I call them the oleburukus, the unfortunates who always bring fake papers and visa stamps to the airport. “Can I see your passport please?.” “Hmm….,” he said scanning his back pocket with his long fingers in what I pray would be a futile attempt. Was he thinking I was going to let him into that plane without seeing his papers? Jameses, all of them on the planet: a product of an Angel who didn’t follow creation instructions. “Now watch this all of you. All of you. Two pitchers of opium,” God said writing on a whiteboard. “Are we clear on this?” “Yes sir.” “Hold up his chin like this and gently pour your opium with a little honey right in his ear. Remember to patch him up accurately.” “Yes sir.” “I won’t be making people anymore. You guys can handle that. Are we clear on this?” God said. “Yes sir.” He wasn’t an oleburuku, he had all his papers, all his papers, visas, and he had three pages stamped. He had been to Sweden, Iceland, and Afghanistan in 2011. Anytime an angel misses an instruction in the Creation Book, he also makes a lucky bastard!. “Step onto the machine in front of you, please.”

He obliged, walking into the body scanner. I peered into his screen as the computer dotted on his vitals, red dots traveling from his kidney to his heart where James hid his relationship with my best friend Tolu for many years until that day I caught them behind a broken car after night prep. I almost died. I wished I hadn’t eyes to see, it was so devastating. James was pounding and counting under his breath, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and Tolu’s moaning was so loud. It doesn’t matter what people may think, Lagos is that place every young woman in her 30s should live at least once in a lifetime. I was 32 when I lived there, every morning I would wake up like an owl at 3:00 am, fix breakfast with one hand, and text James a beautiful love message, describing how his body smelled like strawberry ice on caramel topping… I was a black woman living in Lagos, Nigeria. I had no idea what that meant, but I heard it on a British sitcom and it felt like something one should say of one’s boyfriend’s body. I texted about his lips too: so fleshy, wet, soft; and how badly I’d want to put his whole body in my knapsack—and take it home with me that night. I could hear mum’s voice saying somewhere in my head as she prepared breakfast for the family that morning, ‘Tope, if you put the same energy you had put in love on your decoration business. You’d make a lot of money by now!’

She served everyone a breakfast of pap and akara that morning. When she got to my turn, she whispered, ‘Sweetheart, I hope you’ve gotten over James.’ Mum was so concerned about whom we dated. It was like she giving out her daughter’s hand in marriage, she wanted to know where the fella lived, where his parents were from, and what he was studying at Unilag… She even wanted to know his genotype… “Make sure you don’t finish from Unilag pregnant,” that was dad’s mantra. Whenever love was talked about at breakfast or dinner table: he’d sip on his clear glass of water, take a dab on his food and clear his throat: “I hope one of you won’t come home pregnant.” “Every time love, love, love,” he’d say. Long story short, none of us came home pregnant. Postinor or lime juice when Postinor wasn’t available did the job. I took out babies for James, sorry the bastard James countless times in Year 1 and Year 2 precisely of Diplomacy. I felt luckier than friends who had to drop out of Unilag because they got pregnant. “Thank God, none of my daughters got pregnant whilst in the university!” I could hear my father’s voice rising in the living room.

I often think of myself as a sinner who shouldn’t call others sinners because they sin differently. The evidence of my sin: clots of blood and used pads have been flushed down the toilet to the great unseen and my friend has metamorphosed into a two-year-old. Runke’s son for Jude is now two years old. She had dropped out of Diplomacy that year to give birth to him. The shame was overwhelming. Jude went into thin air. Runke’s father said she had rubbed the family’s good name in the mud; something I imagined was a person’s body being dragged by the hair and pulled through a stretch of the mire. Whenever I hear my father’s voice rising in the living room affirmed by my mother’s. “My dear, let us thank God o,” “None of our daughters finished from Unilag with pregnancy. Did you hear what happened to Runke and how she ended up?” I wish I could just tell mum to please shut up. Did she know how many babies I machine-gunned with Postinors for James? Their voices cry somewhere in Heaven and sometimes between my ears, ‘you didn’t give us a chance to live. No one is a saint, and no one should call others sinners for simply sinning differently. *

There are many ways nature creates a hole in people’s hearts; none of these ways are medical, it’s not something a surgeon uses. The depth of it: the guilt even after many years of being married. The past is truly not something you can flush down the toilet hole or would it go down a bathroom sink?. A small bit of it, at least the part where I committed six abortions within three months for Jude. I badly would want to flush it right now down the bathroom sink with yesterday’s soup because my husband doesn’t eat stale food. He wants fresh soup. He will get it but will he ever get children?. I often feel I should tell him the truth. Tochukwu shouldn’t suffer for something he doesn’t know. The death of the children I killed in six abortions, just so my parents would have children who finished Unilag without getting pregnant and not drag the family’s name down the like Runke and not be like Runke.

Tochukwu loves me so deeply, I could see it in his eyes and his acts: the cars, the house, my name on his company’s board of directors. But if I tell him, ah Omo Ibo he will throw me out of his house. “I love you so much, baby.” “You mean the world, I swear,” he said, his breath on my ear. “You love me yet you’re making me cook another soup. Why don’t you eat the one of yesterday,” I teased him? With the innocence shining in his eyes and the pureness of his love for me; I sometimes feel Tochukwu was that good man in that novel, who was thrown from the skies by a wicked god and landed in the laps of a bad woman, that became his wife. He deserves to have children. I killed six children, should I tell him, no! ”Sweetheart, I can help you make you just chill.” “You look stressed out,” Tochukwu said, holding my face and planting a kiss.

He mesmerizes me with his love; the harmattan wind mesmerizes dried mango leaves in late December. Tell him about the abortions, let the cat out of the bag, a poor idiom invented to lighten the effect of telling one’s husband a secret— that’d blow him to smithereens. I always panted when Tochukwu kissed me. He kissed like a thirsty fox drinking from the river, his lips locked into mine, and he gulped on my saliva. “Do you want it here in the kitchen or the bedroom,” I said disengaging his lips. “Here please.” “Okay,” I said, giggling.


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